California group helps young girls in Cuba learn to surf

A Central California surf group has just returned from a two-week trip to the Caribbean, but the purpose of its travel wasn’t to paddle into the waves at Cabarate in the Dominican Republic or to ride the long right at Anegada in the British Virgin Islands.

Their destination was Cuba, and their goal revolutionary: Teach women in the long-isolated island nation to surf.

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“In Cuba, surfing isn’t recognized as a sport, and women’s surfing is just unheard of,” Elsa Rivera of The Wahine Project told KSBW.

The Wahine Project is a Central California group based out of Monterey dedicated to empowering girls across the globe to try their hands at surfing. In order to do that in Cuba, The Wahine Project flew to the Caribbean island with 15 surfboards donated by brands like Billabong in hopes of helping to support a fledgling surf community.

“The surf culture is growing in Cuba,” Wahine Project founder Dionne Ybarra told KSBW. “There are about 60 men, we’re told, who surf in the entire island.”

And while that number might seem small, according to The Wahine Project, when they arrived there were only two women on the island surfing.

“These are girls that were surfing on broken pieces of wood and broken boards,” Rivera told the news station. “We got to replace those and really support their everyday desire to be in the ocean.”

In the end, the members of The Wahine Project say the trip was successful, and that they were able to connect with somebody who will help them continue to set up surf camps for young girls on the island. And while they plan on returning to Cuba soon, for now, they said, the message they want everyone to draw from their trip is simple.

“It doesn’t matter what size you are, what age you are, what color you are,” said Ybarra. “When you see these girls as an example, it’ll inspire other young girls and women to say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.'”

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